Friday, April 22, 2011

What does Passion mean?

What exactly do we mean when we talk about passion? And why do we call the week before Easter "Passion" week?

Most of the dictionaries equate passion with an extreme emotion, particularly one of ardor or love. Somehow, though, "extreme emotion" seems insufficient, particularly in light of the events of Good Friday. Over and over Jesus told his disciples that his death was necessary and imminent. John 10 says,

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”
While the disciples did not understand (John 16:17), Jesus knew exactly what lay ahead for him. He knew that the Jewish leaders did not have authority to condemn him to death, and that his life would be taken by the Romans. Roman torture and execution for non-Romans was well-known for its brutality and violence. Yet, Jesus submitted. And we call it "passion."

Jesus acknowledged the depth of his fear in Gethsemane, when his prayer was so intense that his sweat became like blood. By the end of those horrifying hours, Jesus acquiesced his human will to the will of the Father, and stood, prepared to endure the next events that would be the most cruel and brutal the Roman soldiers could imagine. But for what?

For "extreme emotion?" For power? For notoriety? For fame? For glory? For what, exactly?

John 3:16, in its simplicity is beyond profound: "For God so LOVED...." There must be more to passion than "extreme emotion." Passion is extreme, to be sure, but passion has power. Emotion may be an element of passion, but it cannot drive action. Emotion is a result, not a force.

Passion, then, is a motivating force, something that drives an individual to endure great suffering or to lay aside circumstances, expectations, and abilities to pursue it. Love is passion, not the other way around. It is a choice, a power, a drive too strong to allow any impediment to its living out. That must be why the book of John (and his epistles) focuses so intently on love. (According to one source, some form of "love" appears in that gospel alone nearly 60 times.) Jesus told his followers repeatedly to "love one another." It is a command, an instruction, and a choice.

To choose love is to demonstrate commitment. To choose obedience is to demonstrate humility. To choose the will of God over self--that is the essence of passion.

There is power in passion.

No comments: